Haggai was the tenth prophet of The Twelve Prophets and he lived in the sixth century BC. His mission was to motivate the people to finish rebuilding the Second Temple. In his book, he made a series of speeches on the subject.
Haggai criticised the people for neglecting the reconstruction and mobilised Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest to resume the project. He also envisioned the greatness of the new building, predicting that it would be more glorious than the Temple of Solomon.
The prophet pointed out that God’s blessings had returned to the land since the building work had started again. He also spoke about the special role of Zerubbabel in ruling the nation, referring to him as God’s chosen servant.
Haggai’s prophecy that the rebuilt temple would be more glorious than the first has several possible interpretations. Some believe that it refers to the magnificence of the new building, which was later expanded by Herod the Great.
However, God’s specific promise for the new temple was: “I will fill this house with glory.” (Haggai 2:7) In the Old Testament, this expression usually refers to God’s glorious presence in the building (2 Chronicles 7:1-2; Ezekiel 43:4-5). On this basis, Christian interpreters later understood this prophecy to refer to the glorious visit of the Messiah to the Second Temple (cf Malachi 3:1).
This grand painting featuring a quotation from Haggai chapter 2 is found on the lantern tower ceiling of Buckfast Abbey, in Devon. It was painted by the Benedictine monk Dom Charles Norris, who lived at the Abbey, in 1939. He used egg tempera paint to create this Byzantine Revival masterpiece.
The painting features nine panels that are full of religious meaning. In the four corners are symbols of the four evangelists, including quotations from their gospels. In the cross-shape, Christ is surrounded by the Virgin Mary, St John the Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, along with various prophets, martyrs and doctors of the Church.
The Latin quotation picked out in blue and gold reads: Magna erit gloria domus istius novissimae plus quam primae dicit Dominus exercituum. This means: ‘The glory of the last house will be greater than the first, says the Lord of hosts’. (Haggai 2:7)
This text works on a number of levels. First and foremost, it refers here to the reconstruction of Buckfast Abbey in 1937, after it was destroyed during the Reformation. But it also refers secondarily to the reconstruction of the Second Temple, the Church as the Temple of God, and to the arrival of Christ through the Virgin Mary.
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
Buckfast Abbey, Buckfastleigh
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: The Prophet Haggai advised Zerubbabel, who was governor of Judah, to rebuild the Temple of Solomon.
- From the New Testament: Christ often visited the Temple of Zerubbabel, which had been expanded by Herod the Great – starting with his Presentation as a baby.